Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic cuts through the atmosphere that's seemingly building and collecting around the South Side facility in regards to the contract of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
It's not unlike seeing two great friends - both the alphas of one's respective social group - start picking at each other. One escalates the situation, the other retaliates, and escalates it even further. Back and forth they go, the onlookers watching in semi-horror with the thought of whether to intercede or just figure out which one they'll have to side with after the punches stop flying.
They're not at the point of punches yet. Just the equivalent of one friend drunkenly telling the other one off via text message (in the form of an alleged threat of a trade). It hasn't fully escalated, and maybe the two sides sparring over numbers is a good thing for the sake of making sure both sides end up having to sacrifice something - the purest way to ensure there is equal give-and-take in the relationship.
Kovacevic asks the right question, though.
Right now, Roethlisberger wants to sign with the Steelers. Right now, the Steelers need to sign Roethlisberger. So what exactly is the disconnect here? :
Is this anything more than the team puffing out its chest and announcing, after years of decisions indicating the exact opposite, the Steelers won't let their franchise quarterback dictate how they do business - basically another passive-aggressive move against Roethlisberger's comfort level like when they told Bruce Arians he was retiring (before he became NFL Coach of the Year)?
In Ben's case, does he really have much reason to freak out about an extension? Sure, he's on the hook for less money than a few quarterbacks who simply cannot hold his jock in terms of value, talent, ability and demonstrated impact on winning games. But he's also made more money on his one contract than any other $100 million quarterback in history, and he's played for more guaranteed money on that contract than any of his peers.
It's understandable why both sides can see they're giving up something, but both sides should see and appreciate that in each other's position.
If we want to get brutal with it, the Steelers won't win without Roethlisberger, and Roethlisberger won't go somewhere else and re-establish the same kind of comfort and familiarity - his career will end up no different than how Carson Palmer's has, jettisoned from team-to-team with little to no impact league-wide.
They need each other, and perhaps a fight here and there helps keep the rest of the pack in line, even each other. Maybe the team is better off for it.
Better off, that is, until it isn't. The Steelers need to get wise to the fact whether they like it or not, Ben needs to be here. And Ben needs to get over a one-year blip on his otherwise historically lucrative contract.
As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says, together, we all eat. As soon as the powers that be on the South Side remember they're collectively in charge of picking the meal, everyone can get to the table and chow down.